Charmed life

My Negroni-soaked lunch with Laurence Olivier

Breakfast is my preferred meal, in case you’re interested. I broke my fast this week with my walking laser-light of a friend, William Shawcross, at Fischer’s in Marylebone, which serves an egg rosti to rival that of Café Sacher in Vienna. Fischer’s consists of a small entrance area, a bar to the left, and at

Real life

The struggle to book my wedding in Ireland

‘How does anyone young and stupid manage to get married?’ I kept shouting at the builder boyfriend as I pummelled the keys of my laptop to try to force the website of the registrar to give me a date. It seems I picked the worst possible time to try to serve notice because, as anyone

Wine Club

Fresh mixed cases from Tanners

I was snitched on last week. You know how it is – after a long, wine-soaked lunch in town, I tottered off full of bonhomie to catch the train back to Skid Row-on-Sea and, to ward off any incipient hangover, nipped into M&S for a couple of those little plastic bottles of rosé they have

No sacred cows

Why won’t Chris Packham have a real debate on climate?

On Sunday, the BBC did something unusual. It invited Luke Johnson, a climate contrarian, to join a panel with Laura Kuenssberg to discuss net zero. As followers of this debate will know, the BBC’s editorial policy unit issued guidance to staff in 2018 saying: ‘As climate change is accepted as happening, you do not need

Dear Mary


The case for Churchillian drinking

Churchill. No disrespect to Andrew Roberts’s more recent work, but I set out to look up a point about drink in Roy Jenkins’s biography and ended up rereading it. I think that it is Roy’s best book and extremely well written. There are also passages where he slips in points from his own experience of

Mind your language

Where does ‘stuff’ come from?

Pelham, the hero of the novel of the same name (which came out in 1828, the first year of The Spectator’s existence), visiting his old friend Glanville, is conducted by ‘the obsequious and bowing valet’ into a room where his host sits ‘opposite to a toilet of massive gold’. (Yes, words change meaning. This toilet


The Signal Box

I’m four pints deep at The Signal Box since no trains are leaving Euston now. At the bar there’s a guy who talks and talks. The departure boards are blank as snow. Silent as someone who, three hours ago, stood at the tracks’ edge. Turning and turning a stone in one hand. Someone who knew

This Word

From direct to indirect speech,spelling and pronunciationremain the same, though the meaning of this word has changed forever,my tone no longer impatientor jokey, but strictly neutral. I end up juggling sentencesto give the proper noun the slipand dodge any mention of Dad.

The Wiki Man

Louis XIV would envy your life

Some things in life acquire an outsize popularity which defies all common sense. The outlandish appeal of such things cannot be explained except by reference to René Girard’s theory of mimetic desire – the idea that there are many things we value not for their intrinsic utility and enjoyment but because we see that other